Running a dental practice is a lot of work. From patient care to leading team members and managing cash flow, the work never ends.
There are only two ways to respond: You can either let your practice continue to push you around, or you can take control of your practice and put a structure in place to build a practice that can run without you.
An often-overlooked step to building a practice that can run without you is to create a set of core values for your practice. Your practice’s core values are the rules of the game. They define what your practice stands for and how you will build your practice.
Your core values are the rules of your company. They guide the decisions you make for your practice and ensure your team members are all on the same page. They bring clarity and consistency to your practice.
Take buying materials, for example. With a set of core values that includes using the highest-quality materials, you wouldn’t accept anything less than the best-quality materials you can afford. Without a set of core values, you might look at buying materials as an exercise in finding the lowest-priced acceptable options. One month you may buy the cheapest option; another month you may buy a higher-quality option.
That inconsistency permeates your practice. Your patients won’t know whether to expect high-quality or low-quality materials. That means they might be pleasantly surprised one visit and disappointed the next and will be far less likely to refer people to your practice. Internally, your team members won’t know how to order materials, so you’ll either have to do it yourself or accept inconsistency in material quality.
Having a clear set of core values makes sure everyone’s on the same page and moving together toward building the practice you envision for your future.
To create a set of core values that can help your dental practice run without you, follow these three steps.
1. Write down all the values you want for your practice.
The first step toward creating an effective set of core values is to write down every value you want your practice to operate with. If you’re looking to build a practice that caters to high-end clients, for example, your list might include utilizing the best materials, providing exceptional customer service, and providing VIP services to each client.
If you need help, get key team members involved. Share your practice’s vision with them. Get their feedback. Then brainstorm values that would ensure everyone operates in a way that leads your practice toward your vision. By including your team, you’ll not only get more input, but you’ll also build more team-member buy-in and ownership of the process.
Very early in the transformation of my practice into a Delivering WOW practice, I sat down with my team and asked, “What’s important to us? How do we want to be known in the community?”
I could have done it on my own, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful as involving my team. Additionally, when your entire team is on board, you won’t have to do everything in your practice, because your team will have a clear set of rules within which to make decisions in your absence.
2. Refine your list to the core values that will lead you toward your vision.
Once you have a complete list, spend some time refining your list. To do so, spend some time considering whether each value you listed is a good fit for you and your practice.
Will they stand the test of time or need to be changed in a month, six months, or a year? The most effective core values will be principle-based and stand the test of time. If you’ll need to change it, refine it so it can stand the test of time or consider eliminating it.
Is each value consistent with the practice you want to build? Picture your future practice. Is having each of those values in place consistent with that? If not, cross it out.
My team and I spent time refining each of the values we listed, refining or eliminating our list until we found ten core values conducive to a Delivering WOW practice and could stand the test of time. When we were finished, each of us knew exactly what was expected of us. That allowed us to rely on each other with more confidence than before because we knew the other team members were making decisions within the same set of rules.
3. Show off your core values.
Your core values should not be a secret! Once you have a list of core values for your practice that matches your vision for your future, share them with your patients and the community.
Print and display them in a prominent spot in your office. Point them out to new patients during your office tour. Include a printout of them in recruiting materials so every new team member comes in knowing what’s expected of them. Everyone in your practice and the community should know what your practice stands for and your team will look to those core values with pride.
My entire team loves looking at our core values display. Every time we see it, we’re reminded of exactly what we stand for. Our final list of core values includes these ten principles:
- Always show compassion. It’s important to truly understand our patients’ needs and meet them there. We want to treat our patients with kindness and understanding.
- Ask the right questions. It’s important for us to be able to listen to understand. Understanding our patients’ fears, concerns, and points of resistance helps us to treat them properly and provide better solutions to their problems.
- Deliver a WOW experience every time. Consistency is important.
- Listen with two ears and one heart. The heart in business has to be compassion, love, and understanding.
- Pursue growth and learning. We have weekly lunch-and-learn sessions to ensure we are always learning as a team. All of our team members also have Kindles to read books to help with their personal development.
- Think big and have fun. We are innovative and think outside of the box. We have a relaxed working environment where we love going to work, and the patients feel it.
- Build a positive team and family spirit. If we aren’t working together as a team, then we can’t serve our patients to the best of our ability.
- Insist on the highest standards. We want the best for our patients regarding the quality of dentistry that we provide as well as the environment in which we provide it.
- Build a stronger community. We will always make giving back to the community a part of our culture.
- Be humble. As we grow, we want always to remain grateful for what we have and humble in how we carry ourselves.
It’s your turn.
Spend some time working through this three-step process for developing your own core values for your practice. When you’re done, take a picture of your core value display and share it on your social-media channels. Be sure to tag me, so I can celebrate with you! I am on Twitter: @deliveringwow